This week I spent a great deal of time obsessively working on the website I set up for our project, https://necropolis.commons.gc.cuny.edu/. Of course, it still has a way to go – such as an empty project description page – but the first post is up and I’m encouraging everyone to post about things they find and their activities as they relate to the project – a slightly more formalized version of what we do for this site, geared specifically toward the public. To that end, Taylor set up a Twitter account for Necropolis, @BNecropolis, to boost publicity.
Every time I describe this project I see more clearly how, while we may not create new tools from scratch, we will be configuring existing tools in new ways that have great potential. I am continually surprised by how many historic cemetery websites have clunky, 1990s-era technology driving their public interface. Or, they have beautiful, fancy platforms that clearly cost a bundle, but are nevertheless limited in what information they can visualize. We want Necropolis not only to function as a set of physical maps, but also as a set of conceptual maps. We want it to be relevant not only to visitors, but also to scholars and students in remote locations. If, eventually, we can take whatever configuration of software we develop and bundle it into a single, elegant installation for organizations to make use of for their own historic site projects, then my purpose on this planet will be fulfilled. It may not happen this semester, though.
I spent a good part of the week reading the survey materials that Lisa had linked to us and the synagogue/cemetery history documents that Mr. Edinger had put in Dropbox for us.
I had this grandiose idea that I was going to come up with a streamlined survey form for field survey work, but when I went back to take a quick at the 11th street and 21st Street sites, I determined that this wasn’t such a good idea. The survival and quality of the markers vary greatly and only a minority provide a lot of information and detail, so I am better off sticking with the Pennsylvania form for now to capture as much limited information as possible. After the initial intake in the field we can determine which blank “cells” to eliminate as irrelevant.
As we prepare for our site visit/inventory, I think the best use of my time would be to meet with the pertinent staff at the New York Historical Society and the Queens Historical Society (the second meeting is for general archival/research advice). I need to become cognizant of what other social data is potentially available about this historical community, and start thinking about how we might collect, categorize, analyze and present this data.
Lastly, I discussed our project with the Digital Fellows this week (I was walking past their office coming from my Linguistics reading group and stopped in). I was talking about the data character/requirements of our project with Hannah, and Keith Miyake was there. Keith has a strong interest and background in geographic/cartographic related projects (I attended some of his workshops last year), and I asked if he could come to our March 22 class, so we could benefit from his experience and advice.